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The California Senate removed requirements for a 50% reduction in petroleum use from SB 350

The California legislature passed a law today setting higher renewable energy use and fuel standards, but without a portion of the bill that would have called for a 50% reduction in petroleum use by 2030. The bill, Senate Bill 350, prompted a backlash from the oil and gas industry and divided California Democrats.

The petroleum cut was part of a larger plan to reduce carbon emissions by 80% of 1990 levels by 2050, a piece of legislation first put forward by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and then carried on by Governor Jerry Brown. SB 350 passed the Democratic-controlled Senate but faced a tougher battle in the Assembly, where Democrats tend to be more moderate and represent economically struggling jurisdictions, reports The New York Times.

Opponents of the bill ran a campaign against SB 350 saying that the deep cuts would lead to fuel rationing, bans on sport utility vehicles and higher electricity costs. California already experiences higher fuel costs than the rest of country. In July, California gas prices were $0.95 higher than the national average. Normally they’re $0.70/gal higher than the national average just from taxes and other fees.

Backers of the bill said the allegations were blown out of proportion. The bill does not mention rationing or any other specific measures, but the arguments proved persuasive.

“Ultimately, California is going to demand that an industry which represents most of the problem has an economic and moral duty to be part of the solution,” said Kevin de Leon, the senator who introduced the bill. De Leon agreed to remove the portion of the bill calling for the 50% cut as part of a compromise, but kept the rest of the bill intact.

Focus on renewables and energy efficiencies

The two less contentious parts of the bill that will remain are a mandate that half of all the state’s energy come from renewable resources, such as wind, by 2030, and a separate measure to double the energy efficiencies of older buildings. Henry Perea, a moderate Democrat who led the opposition to the petroleum measure, said he would support the bill in this form.

“SB 350 will set California apart as a leader in climate change policy and will go a long way in reducing emissions in areas like the Central Valley that suffer from some of the worst air quality in the nation,” he said.

Governor Brown said that he would use his executive powers to continue to force the kinds of reductions in global emissions that have been a central goal of his governorship. “Oil has won the skirmish, but they’ve lost the bigger battle,” he said. “Because I am more determined than ever to make our regulatory regime work for the people of California: cleaning up the air, reducing the petroleum and creating the green jobs that are going to put hundreds of thousands of people to work over the coming decades.”

Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States Petroleum Association, was pleased with the outcome. She also said that oil companies “remain committed to working with Gov. Jerry Brown and legislators on climate change and energy policy.” She added that “Californians are best served by inclusive energy policy and by a legislative body that retains authority on issues so critically important to jobs, communities and our way of life.”

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